Deadliest attack on journalists as nine killed in Afghan bombing

Expression

Nine journalists were among at least 25 people killed in twin bombings in Kabul, Afghanistan on 30th April 2018. 49 others were wounded.

Journalists covering a bomb blast during the morning rush hour were standing in a group near the site of the explosion when the suicide bomber struck, killing seven people outright and wounding several, two of whom later died.

The bomber appeared to have deliberately targeted journalists, presenting a press card to police before joining the group standing near the first blast site, interior ministry spokesman Najib Danesh said. The so-called Islamic State (also sometimes referred to as Da'esh) issued an online statement that claimed responsibility for the attacks.

In a separate attack in Khost province, which borders Pakistan, unidentified gunmen shot dead a BBC Pashto journalist, Ahmad Shah.

A statement issued by the Afghanistan Federation of Journalists said the explosion caused "the deadliest day in Afghan media history" and demanded an investigation by the UN. The body said:

“This terrorist attack is a war crime and an organised attack on the Afghan media…the attack in the heart of Kabul and in the Green Zone indicates a serious lack of security by the government.”

The journalists killed in the bombing include:

  • Shah Marai - Agence France-Presse (AFP) chief photographer in Afghanistan
  • Maharam Durani - producer for local station, Azadi Radio
  • Ebadullah Hananzai - Azadi Radio journalist
  • Sabawoon Kakar - Azadi Radio journalist
  • Yar Mohammad Tokhi - cameraman for Tolo News
  • Ghazi Rasooli - 1TV reporter
  • Nowroz Ali Rajabi - 1TV cameraman
  • Saleem Talash - Mashal TV journalist
  • Ali Saleemi - Mashal TV journalist

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler said:

"Today marks one of the deadliest days on record for the media in Afghanistan and indeed around the world…we salute the incredible bravery of these journalists, while noting the cynicism and cruelty of a suicide bomber pretending to be a media worker to target the press.”

Afghanistan has been a dangerous place to work for journalists. According to a report by Nai, an NGO advocating for open media in Afghanistan, 21 reporters were killed in the line of duty in 2017 while 23 reporters were wounded and 21 others physically assaulted.

The organization also said that in 2017 the Afghan government and those working in the government were responsible for 62 cases of violence against reporters, terror groups were responsible for 42 cases of violence while armed groups were responsible for 26 cases.

Security officials have warned of the risk of increased attacks in the run-up to parliamentary elections planned for October 2018.

Human rights defenders

In February 2018, Amnesty International reported that human rights defenders faced constant threats to their life and security. Women human rights defenders, in particular, continued to face threats and intimidation from both state and non-state actors. Most cases were not reported to police because of a lack of trust in the security agencies, which consistently failed to investigate and address these threats. Some who did report threats were not given support or protection.